By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsJanuary 23, 2019
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Jan. 23, 2019) -- The historic World War II-era U.S. flag belonging to 10th Mountain Division Artillery has not been displayed at its headquarters since the unit deactivated in 2004. Now, the colors are back home at Fort Drum.
During the DIVARTY WWII Colors ceremony Jan. 22 at the Commons, retired Maj. Chuck Thompson, former DIVARTY personnel officer, returned the flag back to his unit and explained how it came into his possession.
Thompson recalled that, once deactivated, everything related to DIVARTY was quickly packed and moved out of the headquarters so that the newly activated 3rd Brigade Combat Team could move into the building. He was designated as administrative commander, and he said that most of the unit's symbolic items were shipped to the Institute of Heraldry.
However, one artifact was returned to him. He had sent the battle colors to the Virginia Military Institute, which housed many items related to Maj. Gen. David Ruffner, DIVARTY's first commander and a 1917 VMI graduate.
"When they went through their inventory, they decided this didn't belong, it wasn't theirs, and sent it back," Thompson said.
He explored other institutions and organizations that have similar colors on display, but nothing came to fruition. Thompson then built a giant case and kept the flag in his own home until a proper place could be found. When he learned about the reactivation of DIVARTY, Thompson knew what to do.
"When I was leaving this post I remembered it was sort of a sad going away for me," he said. "I had a great day yesterday when I walked back on post. On my way to DIVARTY headquarters, the building right before that is the museum - and it's a fantastic museum, especially compared to what we had. It reflects the amazing history that this division has built ... so I'm happy to have the colors back where it belongs, and I'm happy to be home as well."
Col. Jason Williams, DIVARTY commander, said that their unit history reaches as far back as the establishment of the division itself, and that the Soldiers of this unit are proud of their lineage.
"To be able to bring the colors home and display them in our headquarters in honor of our history and our lineage is truly special and humbling," he said. "When Soldiers come into the headquarters and see their unit history, it's really special to them."
In his remarks, Williams spoke about DIVARTY's role in the Italian campaign during WWII and their support to the 10th Mountain Division during the Riva Ridge and Mount Belvedere assaults.
"DIVARTY continued to fight alongside the division's infantry regiments through the northern Apennine Mountains and into the Po River Valley. The division's famed rapid advance through the Po River Valley was actually facilitated by DIVARTY's two-and-a-half-ton trucks," he said.
Williams also spoke about the legacy of Ruffner, DIVARTY's first commander.
"(Maj.) Gen. Ruffner was the right officer at the right time for the newly formed 10th Mountain Division," he said. "He was a dedicated Soldier who overlooked no details while preparing his Soldiers for combat. He was well-disciplined, and (he) expected his men to be like him or better."
Williams said that Ruffner was an inspirational leader and, as a motivator, was surpassed only by his idol, Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
"While preparing for the war at Camp Carson, Colorado, Col. Ruffner was asked how many trucks it would take to move his Soldiers and guns to Camp Hale (Colorado)," Williams said. "His answer was 'None. My men are tough, we will walk.' Nearly 80 years later, Gen. Ruffner would be right at home today at the 10th Mountain Division."
To learn more about the history of DIVARTY, visit https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/units-tenants/DIVARTY.